The Air Cadet Leadership Course at RAFC Cranwell is recognized as one of the most difficult and intense courses available to air cadets and during the week of 17 th -24 th July 2010 I got the chance to do it.
A total of 42 air cadets from ATC squadrons and CCF units across the UK attended course 88 of the ACLC.
From the moment I arrived I was told to copy down all the information I would need to survive the forthcoming week, we were then tested on the information and issued an ACLC T-Shirt, an ACLC water bottle and a Mk6 helmet which would go everywhere with us once the command tasks began.
I then took my kit over to the accommodation block and got unpacked and changed for dinner. After dinner we had an arrival briefing in which we were introduced to our flight commanders which were two Flight lieutenants from other squadrons, the brief was followed by a short map and compass revision session, after that we marched over to the stations fire station for a fire and security talk. Once that finished we headed back to the accommodation block to prepare us and our rooms for an inspection before lights out at 22:00
On the Sunday morning we were told to get outside for 05:45 but the majority of us got up at 05:00 to get ready properly. By 06:00 we had marched over to the runway, warmed up and stretched for the compulsory 1.5km run which was a lot harder at 06:00 in the morning than usual but nobody fortunately failed on this part. After the run we had some leadership theory in which we were taught the acronym SMEAC which stands for
- Any questions
- Check understanding
This was then followed by drill which was to choose the flight leaders for the graduation parade if we made it that far! After that there was Exercise singleton which was a 22km walk through the countryside to test our navigation skills and to get to know each other better, after that there was more leadership theory and then a room inspection before lights out at 22:30
To start Monday off we had some drill at 05:45 followed by leadership theory and then breakfast. After breakfast we marched round to some grass space around the back of the accommodation block for the command task demonstrations which we would be very soon doing for ourselves. Once the demonstrations were done each flight went their separate ways and began the Phase 1 command tasks, for the command task the flight commanders chose someone to lead, briefed them on an individual task and then let them do the rest based on what we learnt in the leadership theory lectures, each task was 25minutes long. The day finished with a uniform inspection before lights out at 23:00 .
Tuesday began with an extra long drill session and breakfast before beginning the Phase 2 command tasks for most of the day, these were around 35minutes long each. After Phase 2 we had a brief for the Phase 3 tasks which would be 'out in the field' and then finally the mid-course interviews which would let you know if it was back to the accommodation block or to the train station, fortunately only 1 person didn't make the grade although another had dropped out on the Monday because they decided they didn't want to be there any more.
By the Wednesday everybody is shattered but nobody wants to go home at this stage in the course because of the thought of the ACLC badge. The day started with, yep you guessed it, drill. After drill we marched to the road and loaded our bergens onto a flat bed truck before we did a 5 mile march over to the training area around the back of the main hall at Cranwell. Once there we unpacked the bergens, put up the 12X12 tents and were issued a 24hour ration pack and a hexy stove each, Phase 3 commenced shortly afterwards and lasted for the rest of the day but because each task lasted 40 minutes not everybody completed their task in that day. The day ended with a night-ex in which we had to retrieve and return parts of a puzzle while being chased by SNCO's and observed by our flight commanders which finished around 01:00.
Fortunately we were given a lie in until 05:45 (woo!) and to have breakfast and be on parade for 06:30 where the Phase 3 command tasks continued until everyone had done their task. By now we were exhausted from the tasks but were told to take off the S95 shirts and put on the ACLC T-Shirts that were issued to us at the start of the week to begin exercise Top-Dog, then there was an orienteering exercise where we given the rough locations on a map but had to search that area thoroughly to find it and once we found the first one there were clues to the next attached to it. After that exercise we had a short break and then started the 1.5 km log run which was probably the best part of the whole course because everybody really pulled together as a team to try and get the best flight award which was the whole point of exercise Top-Dog.
Friday morning after spending a night under a basha we packed up everything and marched back to Cranwell before having a final drill session before the big graduation parade, once the parade was perfected (after many hours!) we had the final interviews with our flight commanders to find out if we had passed or failed. The night ended with a disco at the station pub but ended early so we could get a good(ish) nights sleep before the big day.
On the morning of the graduation parade everybody was either polishing or pressing (except one person who seemed to think his shirt was self ironing!) Once we were all ready we got on a coach to the parade ground, where it went without a hitch. To hand out the badges was a group captain whose name I can't remember.
Overall the course was a fantastic experience, from meeting different people from all over the country and working with them to seeing Eurofighters and C-17s coming into land less than half a mile away. Make no mistake about it, the course is very physically and mentally demanding and they will send you home if you don't make the grade but it is definitely worth doing and the golden falcon badge is a great addition to your brassard.